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“Loretta Lynch Is Now Public Enemy #2”: Guess Why The GOP Hates Our Black Attorney General?

It’s something I always figured would happen, and now it has. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is now public enemy #2 to the conservative media, after the president. The Justice Department’s initial decision to remove mentions of ISIS or the Islamic State from the transcript of conversations between Orlando massacre shooter Omar Mateen and the police not only showcase Lynch’s supposed incompetence, but also her inability to recognize what they see as America’s gravest threat: “radical Islam.” And the recent release of the full unredacted transcript has done little to dampen their ire.

Breitbart, The Daily Caller, The Blaze, Fox News, and more have become apoplectic with indignation. “The Orlando attack confirms Donald Trump’s analysis of the threat,” wrote Joel B. Pollack of Breitbart.

Lynch’s press conference in Orlando only increased their fury after she encouraged love in the face of hate and said that she did not know the present whereabouts of Mateen’s wife.

Sure, we’re all entitled to complain about how the transcript was released and the whereabouts of Mateen’s wife. Who can argue against it being better for the investigation if the shooter’s wife’s location is known and she has been questioned by authorities? Personally, I’m not too bothered by how the transcript was released, but I also don’t think “radical Islam” is our gravest domestic threat. Yet dismissing the importance of compassion, unity and love in the face of terror and hate is not only bizarre and dehumanizing, but perpetuates a divisive us vs. them narrative.

To the right, Lynch is an Obama lackey who just wants to “manipulate the truth” and “rewrite history.”

It is clear that they dislike her because she’s an Obama appointee—her arduous confirmation process is proof enough—but also, her fairness toward other groups signals an end to the predominantly pro-white male favoritism they have grown accustomed to. As a black woman, her experiences, perspectives, priorities and struggles will naturally clash with theirs. The increasingly polarized and radicalized conservative base also means that reason and compromise will be shunned, demonization will be encouraged, and that Lynch would inevitably climb up their hit list.

Lynch’s nomination was delayed for over 160 days. That is longer than the nomination process of the previous seven AGs combined. Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who has well-known racial issues of his own, led the charge against Lynch’s confirmation based on her support for Obama’s immigration executive actions. Senator Ted Cruz also vociferously disapproved of her confirmation. And many other Republicans wanted her to distance herself from outgoing AG Eric Holder before approving her.

Holder had a tumultuous relationship with Republican legislators to say the least, including being held in contempt in 2012 by the GOP-led House in relation their “Fast and Furious” investigation. Holder too found it inconceivable how long Lynch’s nomination was being delayed, especially since this meant that he had to stay in the job until she was approved.

The absurdity of her delay was so stark that Democratic Senator Dick Durbin compared it to Jim Crow Segregation by saying that Lynch was being asked to “sit in the back of the bus.” Republican Senator John McCain responded to Durbin by saying that it was beneath the decorum of the United States Senate to “suggest that racist tactics are being employed to delay Ms. Lynch’s confirmation vote.”

Yet despite McCain’s ire, there’s a long history of racist tactics being used to prevent African American participation and advancement. And when you factor in nearly eight years of unprecedented Republican obstruction toward America’s first black president, combined with the opposition his two black AGs have faced from the GOP, these race-based accusations become even less outrageous.

Accusing the GOP of outright racism, especially since Donald Trump is their presumptive presidential nominee, and given the party’s opposition to virtually every civil-rights position that African Americans care about, is hardly an outrageous claim. But is it productive? Sure, some members may harbor racist or bigoted sensibilities, but does assigning a group an inflammatory label provide clarity in a complex situation? Does this label enable progress through compromise, or does it perpetuate an unhealthy polarization of our society?

Throughout Lynch’s tenure she’s applied an unbiased application of the law and a willingness to prosecute white-collar criminals and defend civil liberties and civil rights. These positions bizarrely appear antithetical to modern-day GOP ideology.

Few would have imagined the amount of corruption rife within FIFA, the world soccer body, until the Justice Department got involved. Following the terrorist attack by Dylann Roof at Emanuel AMC Church, Lynch announced that Roof would be charged with a hate crime after it was confirmed that white supremacist beliefs were the motivation for the attack.

She’s also launched a historic investigation into the Chicago Police department following the shooting death of Laquan McDonald. Hers and the Obama Administration’s stance in favor of allowing transgender people the right to use the restroom of the gender they identify with also continues her application of the law that prioritizes equality regardless of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation.

The investigation into the Orlando shooting also follows this pattern since it demonstrates an unwillingness to demonize, demean, or unjustly label a person or a community until the facts are evident and the investigation has concluded.

The GOP’s dislike of Lynch, Obama, and Holder may be motivated by race, but it may also be far more complex than that. Yet there is very little doubt about how dangerous their myopic us vs. them mentality that encourages rushing to judgment and demonizing “them” has become. They’ve encouraged a prejudicial environment within a society where guns are readily available, and have a presumptive presidential nominee who has campaigned on stoking these societal divisions. This sounds like a dangerous radicalization that has nothing to do with Islam.

 

By: Barrett Holmes Pitner, The Daly Beast, June 27, 2016

June 28, 2016 Posted by | Conservative Media, Domestic Terrorism, Loretta Lynch | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Wild And Wacky Stuff”: The Conspiracy Theories Of Ben Carson: A Brief Introduction

The world is now a-BuzzFeed with the discovery of a video from 1998, in which Dr. Ben Carson opined that the pyramids of Egypt were really built as grain houses — not as majestic tombs for the kings. Carson made his case by citing the Bible — specifically the story from Genesis of Joseph advising the Pharaoh of his day to store up grain in order to prepare for seven years of famine.

The alternative, Carson said, was to listen to all those scientists who say the pyramids were built by aliens. As if there were no middle ground there.

In recent days, Carson has reaffirmed these beliefs to a CBS reporter. (Is it possible that Carson was wary of discussing “pyramids” on the record, lest he give a subtle tipoff about his campaign’s very suspicious fundraising and spending operation?)

But this got us wondering: What other wild and wacky stuff does Ben Carson believe, which the wider electorate just hasn’t become totally aware yet? Here’s just a short introduction.

  1. Barack Obama Is Part Of The Communist Conspiracy To Bring Down America

In 2014, Carson declared that President Obama and then-Attorney General Eric Holder were acting out roles in a decades-long communist conspiracy to subvert America.

In doing so, he cited a book from the 1950s by fringe right-wing conspiracy theorist Cleon Skousen, The Naked Communist. (Skousen was also a major racist, even defending the honor of antebellum Southern slavery and the Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott decision.)

  1. The Theory Of Evolution Came From The Devil

In a 2011 speech to a church group, Carson declared: “I personally believe that this theory, that Darwin came up with, was something that was encouraged by the Adversary.”

Carson elaborated on this point: “Now this whole creation vs. evolution controversy has been raging on, really since the beginning. Because what is Satan’s plan? To get rid of God — to disparage God, to mischaracterize God.”

About a month ago, Carson appeared with Bill O’Reilly and dismissed attacks on his beliefs regarding evolution as part of a pattern of liberals attacking African-American conservatives. As for the substance of things, well, he hedged — and asked what those scientists even know, anyway.

“People don’t realize, he’s God — if he wanted to create an Earth that was billions of years old, he could do it. They can’t do it — how come they’re always trying to put themselves in the same category as God?”

  1. Gay Rights Is A Communist Plot — And Men In Prison Prove That Homosexuality Is A Choice

In a 2014 speech to the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage, Carson again referenced the aforementioned Cleon Skousen — and said that “neo-Marxists” had “systematically attacked” the family in order to bring down the United States.

In an appearance on CNN earlier this year, Carson argued that homosexuality is a choice — an argument, he said, was lent credence by the experience of some prisoners.

“Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight, and when they come out, they’re gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question,” Carson said.

Yes — “something” did happen to them in there. In addition to sexual assault, which is rampant in prisons, there is also what is referred to as “situational homosexuality,” which occurs to men in prisons.

Anyway, clearly the good doctor does not favor a fact-based approach to answering life’s lingering questions. But he loves a good story.

 

By: By Eric Kleefeld, Featured Post, The National Memo, November 5, 2015

November 7, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Conspiracy Theories, Evolution | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Patterns Or Practice Of Unnecessary Force”: Justice Department Reaches Settlement With Cleveland Over Police Conduct

The Justice Department has reached a settlement with the city of Cleveland over the conduct of its police officers, the latest case in which the Obama administration has investigated excessive use of force and the violation of constitutional rights by a local department, according to an agency official.

The settlement, amid the growing national debate about American policing, is expected to be announced early this week, the official said. It comes just days after a judge acquitted a Cleveland police officer for his role in the fatal shooting of two unarmed people in a car in 2012 when officers thought the sound of the car backfiring was gunshots.

The Justice Department in December issued a scathing report that accused the Cleveland Police Department of illegally using sometimes deadly force against citizens. The Justice Department civil rights division found that the Cleveland police engaged in a “pattern or practice” of unnecessary force — including shooting residents, striking them in the head and spraying them with chemicals.

In one incident, an officer used a stun gun on “a suicidal, deaf man who committed no crime, posed minimal risk to officers and may not have understood officers’ commands.” The police were also accused of repeatedly punching in the face a handcuffed 13-year-old boy who had been arrested for shoplifting.

The Cleveland report was released the month after a 12-year-old African American boy, Tamir Rice, was fatally shot by a white Cleveland police officer. Cleveland officers had responded to a 911 call that reported a person pointing a gun. It turned out to be a toy pistol.

A Justice Department spokeswoman would not comment on the settlement, which was first reported on the Web site of the New York Times.

When last year’s report about Cleveland was released, then-Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. traveled to the city to announce the findings and said the Justice Department and the city had agreed to establish an independent monitor who would oversee police reforms. The changes will include better training and better supervision of officers, Holder said.

In the past five years, the Justice Department’s civil rights division has opened more than 20 investigations of police departments across the country, more than twice as many as were opened in the previous five. The department has entered into 15 agreements with law enforcement agencies, including consent decrees with nine of them. They include the New Orleans and Albuquerque police departments.

The Cleveland settlement will be the first under the new attorney general, Loretta E. Lynch.

Justice Department officials would not provide any details of the Cleveland settlement. But other cases have required an independent monitor and significant changes in training and policies.

Since April 27, when Lynch was sworn in as the first African American woman to serve as the nation’s top law enforcement official, she has been immersed in the debate on policing tactics. Her first meeting with President Obama was to discuss the violence in Baltimore after the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who suffered a fatal spinal injury while in police custody. Six Baltimore police officers have been indicted in connection with Gray’s death.

Lynch’s first official trip was to Baltimore to meet with the mayor, law enforcement officials and community leaders. She also met with Gray’s family and spoke with an officer who was injured in the violence.

At her first news conference, on May 8, Lynch announced that the Justice Department had opened a broad “pattern or practice” investigation into the Baltimore Police Department to determine whether officers have committed systemic constitutional violations.

The investigation is separate from the Justice Department’s criminal civil rights probe into the death of Gray.

Similarly, the settlement with the city of Cleveland is separate from the Justice Department’s investigation into the conduct of Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo.

On Saturday, a judge found Brelo, a 31-year-old white officer, not guilty of two counts of felony manslaughter in the deaths of African Americans Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30.

Hours of protests ensued in downtown Cleveland, and the Justice Department released a statement saying that the Cleveland U.S. attorney’s office, the FBI and the Justice Department’s civil rights division were all still investigating the case.

Russell and Williams were killed in November after they led 62 police vehicles on a chase across Cleveland. When Russell’s car finally stopped, 13 officers opened fire and shot at least 137 rounds into the vehicle. Brelo was accused of being the only one who continued to shoot after any possible threat was contained. Prosecutors said he climbed onto the hood of the car and shot 15 rounds into the windshield, striking both Russell and Williams.

“We will continue our assessment, review all available legal options and will collaboratively determine what, if any, additional steps are available and appropriate given the requirements and limitations of the applicable laws in the federal judicial system,” said the statement from several officials, including Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

As with the Ferguson, Mo., civil rights investigation into the August death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old who was shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson, the Justice Department faces a high bar in bringing federal civil rights charges. Prosecutors would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Brelo intended to violate the constitutional rights of Russell and Williams.

When Holder released the December report about the “unreasonable and unnecessary” use of force by the Cleveland police, he said he was hopeful that “meaningful change” was possible in the police department.

“Accountability and legitimacy are essential for communities to trust their police departments and for there to be genuine collaboration between police and the citizens they serve,” Holder said.

 

By: Sari Horwitz, The Washington Post, May 25, 2015

May 26, 2015 Posted by | Civil Rights, Cleveland Police Department, U. S. Department of Justice | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Hijacked By The Hardliners”: Threatening To Gum Up The Confirmation Of Loretta Lynch Is Just The Latest GOP Tantrum

On Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared he really, really likes having Eric Holder as attorney general. He essentially told CNN that unless Democrats concede to anti-abortion language Republicans snuck into a human trafficking bill, the nomination of Loretta Lynch to succeed Holder would not move forward.

First of all, whether Republicans accept it or not, abortion is a legal, constitutionally-guaranteed medical procedure in this country, for sex trafficking victims or anyone else. And second, this is indicative of the hostage politics we’ve come to expect from a party that refuses to govern. There is no issue, no matter how humane, and no funding need, no matter how dire, that cannot be hijacked by the ideological hardliners in the Republican Party.

We could have had immigration reform a year ago, without the threat of a Department of Homeland Security shutdown, if Speaker of the House John Boehner had told the bigots in his own caucus to take a hike and held a vote on a common-decency bill that would have passed. Republicans did shut down the government and harmed Colorado’s flood recovery efforts thanks to tea party intransigence on the Affordable Care Act. And we came to the brink of ladyparts shutting the whole thing down in 2011 thanks to Republican opposition to Planned Parenthood funding for health care screenings and services.

And no, it’s not “both sides.” I will cheerfully provide a swift wedgie to the next smug pundit who tries to blame Democrats for Republican failure to act like adults. President Barack Obama waited a year and a half for Boehner to move on immigration reform, and Boehner decided to abdicate his leadership to Iowa Rep. Steve King, who has accused undocumented immigrants of being a bunch of drug dealers with “calves the size of cantaloupes.”

Meanwhile, the Denver Post editorial board (or more accurately, publisher Dean Singleton’s ire at former Sen. Mark Udall) continues to rack up bonus points with the most credibility-damaging, fatuous endorsement of 2014, Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. The editorial actually claimed electing Gardner would “usher in a new era of bipartisanship”, that the Senate wouldn’t follow the House’s infantile, truculent lead and it would actually be “more productive.”

How’s that working out for you, Denver Post editorial board? Because Gardner didn’t get the memo.

He was one of the 47 Republicans to “pull a Dennis Rodman” and decide to communicate directly with a foreign government in order to undercut Obama. Given the backlash, Rodman’s North Korea visit may have been more effective and less comical, but this remains yet another example of Republican ineptitude. As conservative Michael Gerson put it, “This was a foreign policy maneuver, in the middle of a high-stakes negotiation, with all the gravity and deliberation of a blog posting. In timing, tone and substance, it raises questions about the Republican majority’s capacity to govern.”

Gerson’s right, and it’s only going to get better from here. According to Talking Points Memo , there are five more policy “cliffs” awaiting Congress, including the debt ceiling, funding for the Child Health Insurance Program and the end of overall funding for the federal government on Sept. 30. Obama has so far managed to outmaneuver these fools, but at some point voters need to stop rewarding failure by electing a party that is utterly incompetent at the basic functions of government.

 

By: Laura Chapin, U. S. News and World Report, March  16, 2015

March 20, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Governing, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Balancing The Budget”: How Ferguson, Missouri, Uses Cops And The Courts To Prey On Its Residents

More than seven years ago, a black woman parked her car illegally in Ferguson, Missouri. She received two tickets and a $151 fine. The woman, sometimes homeless, struggled to pay it off, and over the next several years she was slapped with seven “Failure to Appear” citations for missing payments and court dates. Each of those citations added to the debt she owed the city and resulted in an arrest warrant. By 2014, she’d been arrested twice, spent nearly a week in jail, and had paid the city $550. As of December, she still owed $541.

“Inexplicable,” is how Attorney General Eric Holder summed up her story at a press conference on Wednesday, at which he unveiled the Department of Justice’s long-anticipated report on the Ferguson police department and municipal court. The report affirms what residents have long said: that officers routinely profile citizens based on their race and violate their constitutional rights. Critically, the report addresses the roots of the police force’s discriminatory practices. Not simply the fault of racist cops, the DoJ asserts, they stem from the way the city preys on residents financially, relying on the fines that accompany even minor offenses to balance its budget.

The report traces the pattern of racial bias from traffic stops to arrests to the courtroom and, finally, to a cycle of incarceration and indebtedness. Black residents make up about 67 percent of the Ferguson population. According to the DoJ, they experienced 85 percent of all traffic stops, 90 percent of citations, 88 percent of incidents in which an officer used force, and 93 percent of all arrests. They received almost all of the citations for petty crimes like jaywalking. Black drivers were twice as likely to have their cars searched as whites, yet significantly less likely to actually have drugs or other contraband. Of the people who spent two or more days in the city jail, 95 percent were black.

Overt, grotesque racism among city officials underlies these statistics. The report includes a handful of e-mails between police and municipal court officials that contain derogatory language, such as a November 2008 message stating that President Obama would not be in office long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years.” Another, from 2011, contained a photo of a group of women dancing topless and “apparently in Africa” with the caption, “Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion.”

But a subtler, systemic pressure also encourages over-policing in Ferguson: the way that the city relies on the fines levied on violators to fund itself. “Officers appear to see some residents, especially those who live in Ferguson’s predominantly African-American neighborhoods, less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue,” states the report. This year the city expects to raise $3.09 million of projected $13.26 million in revenue from fines and fees, which it levies wherever possible. An unmowed lawn, for instance, costs Ferguson residents between $77 and $102, though in some other cities it’s a $5 offense.

Not surprisingly, DoJ found that the city “exhorts” police to maximize revenue via stops, citations, and arrests, and in some cases punishes them for failing to meet targets. In 2010, for example, Ferguson’s finance director wrote to the police chief that “unless ticket writing ramps up significantly before the end of the year, it will be hard to significantly raise collections next year…. it’s not an insignificant issue.” Each unpaid fine generates other fees and often arrest warrants; in effect, it is poverty that’s punished.

Hunger for revenue influences how officers act, resulting in excessive uses of force—with Tasers and dogs—,violations of free speech and unreasonable stops or arrests, according to the DoJ. It has also made the police a “collection agency” for the municipal court, and in turn transformed the courtroom into a shakedown site, where the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment are abandoned, particularly in cases involving black residents. The court “primarily” uses its authority to “advance the City’s financial interest,” not to advance justice, the DoJ found. The police, meanwhile, use arrest warrants not to protect public safety but as the primary means of collecting outstanding fines.

None of this is particularly surprising to people who’ve come into contact with the criminal-justice system in the St. Louis region. “Municipal courts in this area have always been revenue producers,” said Brendan Roediger, who directs a legal clinic at the St. Louis University School of Law. “It means that bad policing pays off.” Most of the roughly ninety municipalities in St. Louis County have their own courts, which operate part-time and, Roediger says, function much like Ferguson’s: for the purpose of balancing budgets. The town of St Ann, just a few miles east of Ferguson, lost its shopping mall in 2010, and the associated tax dollars. Since then revenue from citations has shot up, from $500,000 to $3.5 million from traffic tickets and fines alone, according to one estimate.

According to Radley Balko of The Washington Post, some towns in St. Louis County collect 40 percent or more of their revenue from fines levied by their municipal courts for petty violations. The town of Bel-Ridge (population 2,700, and more than 80 percent black), for example, was projected to collect an average of $450 per household in municipal court fines in 2014, making those fees its largest source of revenue. That money gets pumped right back into the system; $25,000 goes to the prosecuting attorney for the twelve hours they spend in court each month.

“One of the big fears I have about the DoJ’s report is that it’s going to isolate Ferguson, just because that’s what their purview was, but it’s going to ignore the fact that this is going on in ninety other towns in our region, and in many states in America,” said Thomas Harvey, executive director of the legal aid group Arch City Defenders. “This cycle of being stopped, ticketed, fined and jailed is so pervasive for black people in our region that many folks can’t tell you how many times they’ve been jailed on unpaid fines.” He continued, “I’m not exaggerating when I say that people are literally held in these jails and extorted for monetary payments on a daily basis until they’ve tapped out their friends, their families, everything they’ve got in order to get out.”

Harvey and Roediger think the municipal courts should be dissolved, and the cases turned over to circuit courts. The long list of recommendations for reforms included in the DoJ’s report do not go that far, although the agency did suggest that city reduce fines, develop alternative payment plans, and stop jailing people for failing to pay fines, among other things.

“Nothing is off the table,” Holder warned Ferguson officials during the press conference, noting that although the recommendations are voluntary, his department reserves the right to intervene to protect the constitutional rights of Ferguson’s residents. He nodded to the wider geography of the issue, saying that the DoJ would also work with “surrounding municipalities” to reform their law enforcement practices. It’s “the underlying culture” of the police department and the court system that need to change, he said. As the DoJ’s report shows, the underlying economics need changing, too.

 

By: Zoe Carpenter, The Nation, March 4, 2015

March 7, 2015 Posted by | DOJ, Ferguson Missouri, Police Abuse | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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